Saturday at Kleinhans Music Hall, the Beatles tribute “Classical Mystery Tour” could give you a funny feeling.
Could John Lennon still be alive?
Could the news of his death have been a weird mistake?
At least from the balcony, you could almost believe it. Jim Owen, who played Lennon – complete with the classic white suit – had him down so pat that it grew unnerving. His voice sounded like Lennon’s (no small feat, because Lennon had a fine voice). His musicianship was spot on and so was his timing. He was every bit as good as I remembered him being last time this Beatles tribute came to town a decade ago.
Part of the series called “BPO Rocks,” the “Classical Mystery Tour” sold out the house. The word went around that it was standing-room only.
No wonder, because a Beatles tribute band this good is a rare treat. Benjamin Chadwick was a different Paul than we had last time, and we traded up. His voice was closer to Paul’s. It got better as the night went on, until he was pretty much nailing those high, clear notes that Paul used to hit so beautifully. Bravo to Chadwick. It’s a tall order, to stand in for one of rock’s great voices.
David John, as George, got the part right: the serious demeanor, the blissed-out voice. He sang “Here Comes the Sun” and the lovely ballad, “Something,” which allowed the BPO to shine. Chris Camilleri was a competent Ringo. The BPO’s strings, harp and woodwinds accompanied him on “Good Night,” which had him alone on the bandstand in his suit and tie. It was a strangely affecting sight.
The evening traced the Beatles’ career. The Fab Four started out in their relatively sober jackets and ties, then blossomed into the psychedelic Sergeant Pepper suits and comic droopy mustaches. You hate to see those suits go. They represent such a colorful and memorable moment in time.
After intermission comes a later look, the era of “Let It Be” and, after a while, Lennon’s iconic white get-up. Though it’s a generous show, it goes by fast and makes you think how short the Beatles’ time together actually was.
The songs the band chose made good use of the orchestra. “Yesterday” called the strings into play. “All You Need is Love” was a natural for an orchestra, with its closing cacophony involving crazy quotes from “Greensleeves” and Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony.
The good-natured “Ob La Di, Ob La Da” got a big hand. It was one of the hits of the evening. Alex Jokipii, the BPO’s principal trumpet, won hearty applause for his solo in “Penny Lane.” And when “Yellow Submarine” got to the line, “And the band begins to play,” the BPO, rocking and honking, got to be the band.
The deafening crescendo in “A Day in the Life” turns terrifying with an orchestra. “She’s Leaving Home” was full of subtlety from the band and from the BPO. The addition of the orchestra gave a boost to simplistic songs like “I Am the Walrus” and “Come Together.”
The concert was conducted not by Matthew Kraemer, as had been announced, but by Erin Freeman, the head of the Philharmonic Chorus. I do not think her name was ever announced. And the funny thing is, she looks a lot like BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta, especially from the back. The hall was full of people relatively new to the BPO. I imagine a few of them left believing they had seen Falletta.
What I can say pretty certainly is that everyone left happy. The evening wrapped up with feel-good numbers like “Give Peace a Chance.” It sent you out smiling.